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Just a year after Wiener’s Sexographies—a collection of journalistic essays which dealt with egg donation, sexual experimentation, and general all-round “wow, a woman is doing this; it must be provocative” stuff—Nine Moons made its Spanish-language debut. (It would take eleven more years for it to see an English-language translation.) I loved Sexographies; I went into Nine Moons with no doubt I’d feel the same way.
Covering the span of her pregnancy—the “nine moons”, if you will—Nine Moons pulls together nine essays which deal with considering abortion; contemplating complicated mother-daughter relationships; negotiating visa, work, and residency issues while heavily pregnant; nesting, names, and—finally—birth.
It would be easy to assume that, in tackling the inherent domesticity and femininity of pregnancy and motherhood in Nine Moons, Wiener would lose some of that provocative intrigue she generated with Sexographies. And yet, Nine Moons makes clear that subject matter is immaterial when it comes to Wiener’s writing; the star of the show is never the topic, it’s her take on the topic. And her take is always of interest—unabashedly honest, precise, often downright weird. (Anyway, why are we acting like pregnancy and motherhood aren’t two of the most radical, metal things on earth?) There is no reading something by Wiener and not knowing it’s by her.
In the opening essay—‘December’—Wiener queries “why should maternity draw us immediately into lyrical digressions and take us to the edge of inanity?” As far as summing up what Nine Moons is not—inane, lyrical—this line does a pretty good job. Before another essay, she quotes Fred West. The book itself is named after a whole subgenre of pregnancy porn. Are you getting a sense of the vibe of Nine Moons yet?
If not, let me interest you in a few more of my favourite lines:
“You’ve got to try legal abortion once in your life.”
“How was I ever going to become a household name now that I had turned into a regurgitant being?”
“I think I am going to be overcome by emotion and, as always, I want to avoid that at all costs.”
“A baby without a blog is just like an adult without a blog: a total weirdo.”
This is where I praise Jessica Powell’s translation, which is a triumph. Her seemingly effortless ability to capture Wiener’s dry humour, picking just the right word to make her turns of phrase take flight in English are to be admired. I also want to recommend the physicality of Nine Moons (and Sexographies) as objects, as books. Published by Restless Books, the Na Kim-designed covers are both gorgeous and delightfully tactile in a way that’s a rarity; if you can, buy the physical paperbacks.
In short, Nine Moons takes on maternity with an irreverence that comes like a breath of fresh air for a genre which has seen an uptick of interest in recent years. (Yes, Wiener was ahead of the curve when it comes to writing on the maternal too.) Nine Moons is unsanitised, the antithesis of saccharine, and yet also manages to be intensely moving. Stick around for the afterword. While I still rank Sexographies as my favourite Wiener to date, Nine Moons is like the second child, equally beloved but not as unexpected, as surprising. Bone-shifting in a different way.
Buy Nueve lunas: Penguin (Spain + beyond)
About Gabriela Wiener
Gabriela Wiener (Lima, 1975) is a Peruvian journalist and writer based in Spain. The one-time editor of Spanish Marie Claire, Wiener is now a columnist for various online publications.
Other Books by Gabriela Wiener: Sexographies (Restless Books, 2018), Llamada perdida (Malpaso Editorial, 2015), Dicen de mí (Esto no es Berlin, 2018), Huaco retrato (Literatura Random House, 2021)